BT is to press on with its hyperlink patent-infringement lawsuit against Prodigy Communications, even in the face of bad publicity, BT Chairman Christopher Bland said yesterday.

BT's lawsuit alleges that BT owns the patent to hyperlink technology, and that the US-based Internet service provider (ISP) is using the technology without authorization.

BT contends that in 2000, it discovered that it holds US patent 4,873,662 for the invention of hyperlink technology used to link Web pages, and on December 13, 2000, the telecommunications company filed suit in federal court in White Plains, New York. Late last year, a pre-trial discovery court date for the case was set for February 11 and 12 with Judge Mark Fox presiding.

Public image Bland dismissed the impact of bad publicity. "If the court decides in our favour, that would be nice. If the court doesn't decide in our favour, that would not be nice. But the idea of dropping the suit to increase the 'feel good' factor with ISPs in the US would be a bizarre notion for us here in the UK," he said.

Early in 2000, on discovering its ownership of the patent for the hyperlink, BT wrote to 17 US ISPs, including Prodigy, asking them to pay for the privilege of using the technology through licensing agreements. The suit filed against Prodigy, which claims to be the largest consumer DSL (digital subscriber line) ISP in the US, as well as the first commercial ISP, is the first suit BT has filed to protect its hyperlink patent.